First there was the Tampa Two. Now, when it comes to the future of the Indianapolis Colts defense, there’s the Baltimore Three.
Safety Tom Zbikowski, defensive end Cory Redding and nose tackle Brandon McKinney all spent last season as members of the Baltimore Ravens defensive unit.
Redding started 11 of 15 games for the Ravens last year, registering 4.5 sacks and 43 total tackles (29 solo). Zbikowski, meanwhile, had four starts and played in 14 games overall. McKinney played in 12 games in 2011 as a valuable backup.
All three are proficient in the 3-4 hybrid defensive package that coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who are both in their first year with the Colts, began installing last spring. Their arrival in Indianapolis during the offseason, all within a few weeks of each others, was expected to help the Colts make a speedier transition to the new scheme.
It was hoped that Redding, Zbikowski and McKinney would be able to teach the nuances of the system to their new teammates while also providing much needed depth at three key positions. So far, so good.
The fact that all three are familiar with Pagano from their days together in Baltimore is also a major plus. If not for their close association with the Ravens’ former defensive coordinator, it’s doubtful whether any of them would have found their way to Indianapolis.
There’s a loyalty factor that can’t be easily dismissed. And because of their feelings for the Colts head coach, they feel a shared responsibility to be leaders in the Indianapolis locker room.
“It’s very important because it can be misinterpreted sometimes. The guys can react in a certain way, but to have all three voices in the locker room to let the guys know why Chuck said what he said, why Chuck is doing some of the things that he’s doing and kind of ease the guys’ minds,” Redding explained after Thursday’s morning practice.
“Then they’re like ‘OK, we’ll trust the system, we’ll trust you guys, because you have been there, you understand and you all know him, so we’re going to go ahead and trust him.’ And that’s a credit to the guys in the locker room who have been there before us. They’re willing to accept change. Change is great and this one will be great. So as long as everybody gets on board, it will be fine.”
All three former Ravens are finding Pagano 2.0 now in charge of the Colts’ fortunes. He’s similar in many ways to the coach that they played under in Baltimore but also one with a world of new responsibilities.
“Same guy, same mentality. The approach he’s having with us as a head coach is the exact same approach he took the year he was a defensive coordinator with the Ravens. Straight up, tell it like it is. If guys are doing well, praise them. If things are kind of off key, so to speak, you throw the bullet and the guys take it right in the middle of the head, because that’s what we’ve got to do. He’s that kind of guy,” Redding stressed.
“It’s a different role. You’ve got a lot more you have to deal with. He’s still just as personable as he was as a defensive back coach, as a defensive coordinator. Really, he gets to know all of his players, from the guys that came from other teams. That was one thing that was brought up on that [other players] might not have had conversations with their other head coach,” the former Notre Dame defensive back said.
“He’s a player’s coach. It’s still going to be intense. It’s all about fundamentals, sound football, and playing hard. It’s personal to him and that’s the way it should be.”
Redding makes no bones about it. He came to Indianapolis because of his affinity to the head coach. And Pagano wanted him on board to be a leader in the locker room.
“No question. It’s not necessarily the fact that he brought me in for that, it’s just who I am. That’s carried me this far, so why quit. That’s who I am as a person and Chuck understands that. That’s why I was the first person he went for as far as understanding this system, understanding him and getting this program built here,” the University of Texas grad said.
“He’s like, ‘Cory I need you.’ And when I heard that voice come from him, and the sincerity in his voice, like ‘Bro, I need you here,’ that’s what made me forget all others. I’m going with you Chuck, let’s do this. I know how important it is to you and it’s important to me. I wanted to be a part of that change. So here I am.”
So, in his estimation, how is the defensive change going?
“The canvas is not complete. There’s still a lot more room to grow, and we’re still painting our brush every day. Keep on building and building every single day on stopping the run, challenging every ball that’s in the air, not giving them a blade of grass, and having fun while we’re doing it. As long as we keep that mind set we’ll be fine,” the affable Redding said.
“You know pudding is pudding. You can’t mix it up and throw everything else in there. Vanilla wafers, you’ve got banana pudding. It is what it is, it’s still pudding. That’s the basis of this defense. You can’t do anything unless you stop the run. You’ve got to have big, stout, kick-behind guys up front with that attitude to stop the run. Guys in the back end that aren’t afraid of cover-one, put bone on bone, man on man, I’m going to cover you all day, let’s go, let’s play football. That’s what this is based on. The whole team concept has to buy in to that, and the moment we buy into that, which we are, we’re going to be great.”
• Luck watch — Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts’ No. 1 draft pick, completed 19 of 24 passes with one touchdown and an interception during Thursday’s afternoon practice. Veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers came up with the interception, returning it for a touchdown. Powers had predicted during spring workouts that he would get an interception against Luck in training camp.
Backup quarterback Drew Stanton threw a TD pass to rookie tight end Dwayne Allen.
• Let the scuffles begin — For the first time since Tony Dungy’s first season with the Colts, in the summer of 2001, there were a couple of minor skirmishes between offensive and defensive players during a Colts training camp practice.
The first major scuffle occurred midway through Thursday afternoon’s workout with outside linebacker Jerry Hughes and offensive tackle Winston Justice going at it. Defensive tackle Drake Nevis was also in on the action. Justice came out of the scrum with Hughes’ helmet and gave it a quick toss out of bounds.
A second rumble between wide receiver Donnie Avery and cornerback Cassius Vaughn happened a few plays later. Both altercations were quickly broken up.
• Game tickets available — The Colts have announced that a limited number of single-game tickets for the team’s eight regular season home games are available for purchase on Tuesday.
Tickets for the Colts-Green Bay Packers regular-season game are only available as part of a two-game package that includes the Cincinnati Bengals preseason game. Ticket prices per game are $48, $58, $79, $109 and $136.
Fans can purchase tickets while they last at the Lucas Oil Stadium ticket office or by visiting Ticketmaster ticket centers. Purchases can also be made by calling 1-800-745-3000 or logging on to www.ticketmaster.com.
Ex-Ravens dot defensive unit
First there was the Tampa Two. Now, when it comes to the future of the Indianapolis Colts defense, there’s the Baltimore Three.
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Colts not standing pat in looking toward 2013 season
Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has quickly earned a reputation as someone who isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit.
Deacon Jones of famed Fearsome Foursome dead at 74
David “Deacon” Jones, the original sackmaster, has died.
The Hall of Fame defensive end, credited with coining the word “sack” for how he knocked down quarterbacks, was 74.
Seeking elite status
Many stages are set in the long-running drama that is the Indianapolis 500.
The 97th running on the famed oval today has the potential to provide a new four-time champion in Helio Castroneves or Dario Franchitti.
A win for either driver would tie them for the all-time lead in the Indy 500 as A.J. Foyt (1961, ’64, ’67, ’77), Al Unser 1970-71, ’78, ’87) and Rick Mears (1979, ’84, 88, ’91) are atop that mountain with four wins a piece.
While Castroveneves starts in the middle of row three, he and his team won the pit stop competition on Carb Day. The last time Castroneves won the pit stop competition, he won his third Indy 500.
“The field is so close and we have at least 20 cars that are capable to win this race,” Castroneves said. “My previous win, it was actually won on that as well. We were able to execute in the right time and they were able to put me in a very good opportunity to execute.”
Luck having fun with his first OTAs
A year ago, quarterback Andrew Luck was unable to attend the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activity practices due to school commitments at Stanford.
Luck, though, went on to have a stellar year for the Colts despite the lack of summer work with the team. Still, in a sense, he is a rookie during this year’s OTA workouts.
“These are my first OTAs. I missed these last year, so I think it’s great. It’s great to get on the field with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff. Obviously, some of us ran some of this stuff [offense] at Stanford [under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton]. But to get out there with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff is good,” Luck said Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first week of on-field voluntary practice sessions.
Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
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As a former resident of Baltimore, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows all about the hard feelings that still run strong about the move of the Colts franchise to Indianapolis in 1984.
It's a job, not a reunion, Luck says
Andrew Luck made one thing clear this week.
He doesn’t regard Sunday’s game at Reliant Stadium with the Houston Texans as a chance to go back to his home town and talk about old times.
Colts’ meeting comes on heels of Texans’ big loss
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Former Illinois star Meyers Leonard living the NBA dream
One thing is for certain. Meyers Leonard of the Portland Trail Blazers doesn’t need 40 minutes to incite a crowd with a posterizing slam dunk or a big shot block.
At just 20 years of age, the former Robinson, Ill., standout who took his talents to Champaign for two years is getting his feet wet at the highest level of basketball.
Close to 300 fans, many of whom watched Leonard take the Maroons to the 2010 IHSA Class 2A state championship, rode on charter buses to watch him battle the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis last week.
Update: Ravens dismiss former South standout Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator
Former Terre Haute South High School football and basketball standout Cam Cameron was fired Monday as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, who have lost two straight and are still striving for consistency in the running and passing game.
Leonard has moment for highlight reel, but Pacers come away with victory
One night after pulling even with the Chicago Bulls for first place in the NBA’s Central Division, the Indiana Pacers at least maintained that advantage thanks to another big game from Paul George.
Titans to sport new look vs. Colts
Even though the Indianapolis Colts won the first meeting with the Tennessee Titans, interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians doesn’t think it will help his team Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lions present many challenges for Colts
Finding a way to stop, or at least slow down, the Detroit Lions’ fast-paced offense is the primary goal of Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
Wild card looking mighty doable right now: Colts improve to 7-4 with win
Don't look now, but the upstart Indianapolis Colts have jumped to the front
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‘Resilient’ label fits Colts
If there is a word that best describes the 2012 Indianapolis Colts, it just might be “resilient.”
Do-or-die Bills next for Colts
Indianapolis Colts interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is quite aware that the Buffalo Bills are coming into Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium (1 p.m. kickoff, CBS Sports) facing a do-or-die situation in regard to the postseason.
How will the Colts rebound vs. the Bills?
The big question for the Indianapolis Colts as they prepare for Sunday's home game with Buffalo is a pretty simple one.
Colts healthy entering key road game
If all goes well during today’s short walk-through practice, it appears the Indianapolis Colts will be in pretty good health heading into Sunday’s nationally televised (4:25 p.m., CBS Sports) road game with the New England Patriots.
Colts, Patriots renew rivalry for 10th straight year
Once again, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., it’s the Indianapolis Colts playing the New England Patriots.
Times have changed
A lot has changed for the Indianapolis Colts since a 22-17 home loss to Jacksonville on Sept. 23.
For starters, that’s the only game the 1-7 Jaguars have won this season. Indianapolis, meanwhile, has posted wins in four of its last five games and is rolling along with a 5-3 record.
Many Colts point to that loss in the third week of the season. Indianapolis led 14-3 at the half and were ahead 14-13 after three quarters of play.
In fact, the Colts led 17-16 with 0:45 remaining in the game. That’s when Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert connected with speedy wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on an 80-yard pass play that resulted in the final margin of victory.
Colts not carried away with success
The Indianapolis Colts have surprised many fans and media around the NFL by getting off to a 4-3 start this season.
Not pretty, but Colts take win
Strictly from an aesthetic point of view, the Indianapolis Colts’ 17-13 National Football League win over the Cleveland Browns wasn’t very attractive.
Browns rusher has taken criticism from Hall of Famer to heart
Trent Richardson has a point to prove.
Colts wish linebackers could play more at same time
If the Indianapolis Colts could get both of their starting outside linebackers — Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis — on the field together for more than four quarters this season, it would be interesting to see how quickly the team’s defensive unit could continue its development.
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